There was seemingly very little input from Republicans during the behind-the-scenes process. It was clear Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, didn't support the idea of a consensus bill.
"You're not allowed to amend this bill because we all got together in a room somewhere and agreed to this bill?" Lane said, questioning the idea that everyone supported the measure.
Lane's proposed amendment received the most attention. He proposed creating a new teacher evaluation system: Student achievement accounts for 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation, a student survey accounts for 25 percent and a peer/administrator review accounts for the remaining 25 percent.
House Education Committee Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, spoke up against every amendment. For Lane's measure, she said she thought the idea would conflict with other evaluations already in place. While it provided incentives for teachers and made the program voluntary, she said research shows such "merit pay" doesn't work and the state couldn't afford the program.
If every teacher in the state participated, it could cost up to $80 million, Lane said. He didn't think everyone would participate or qualify. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 75 to 20, with five people not voting.
Delegate Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, proposed a change that did garner some discussion in the education committee. At the request of the state Board of Education, the bill removes from code the requirement that the state superintendent cannot be paid more than $175,000.
The board says removing that stipulation and a requirement for superintendents to have a masters' degree in Education Administrations allows for a broader field of qualified candidates.
Frich said it opened the door for exorbitant salaries, which are not always equitable with success. That money could go to teachers, she said. The amendment failed 73 to 23 with four members not voting.
Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, made the final amendment. It called for a pilot program to give students more access to electronic textbooks. The program allows students to get more information outside of class and lets them forgo carrying heavy textbooks, Walters said.
There are already provisions in code that allow for electronic textbooks, Poling argued, so the measure would be redundant. It garnered only 23 votes of support.
Armstead and other Republicans think the bill doesn't go far enough for reform and doesn't adequately address concerns of the education efficiency audit, though it could bring about some change.
"It is a first step. I hope it starts a discussion on a lot of these areas, but it is not the solution to our educational challenges in our state," Armstead said.
The bill is up for final House approval today. If passed, it would require only the governor's signature to become law.